K-State basketball is on a roll, beating No. 18 Texas Tech 62-51 on Saturday and following that up with a victory over No. 23 Texas 66-65 on Wednesday night. They are finally healthy and appear to be putting things together. This team is better than the K-State teams of the last two seasons but still sits in last place in the Big 12 standings with a game against Kansas coming up on Saturday.
There are three main reasons that the Wildcats are a much improved team.
1) Mark Smith
2) Nijel Pack
3) Markquis Nowell
There’s obviously more to it than just those three players, but those three players give the team a chance to win every game and if all three play well at the same time this team can beat anyone in the conference.
I remember perusing the league statistics during last year’s Big 12 season and throughout the season K-State’s statistics were pretty pathetic overall. That’s not the case so far this season. K-State is among the league leaders in numerous team and individual categories. Unfortunately, they are also among the worst in the league in some key categories. Let’s take a look at what they’re doing well and what they need to improve upon if they want to keep the winning streak going.
Mark Smith leads the Big 12 in rebounding overall and in conference games. He also leads the league in defensive rebounding overall and in conference games. I was surprised when I first saw this. I knew he was doing a good job, but didn’t think he’d be leading the league. Smith has been a huge bright spot for the Wildcats and has been their best overall player this season.
Nijel Pack is 6th in the Big 12 in scoring (4th in conference games.) He is also 6th in field goal percentage (10th in conference games.) And he’s one of the best three-point shooters in the league, 3rd in 3 point percentage, (7th in conference games), and 2nd in 3 point field goals made, (3rd in conference games.)
Markquis Nowell is 2nd in the Big 12 in assists, first in steals, and 2nd in assist to turnover ratio. He’s been the cog keeping the motor running for the Wildcats this season.
K-State is 3rd in free throw percentage (.720) (9th in conference games (.674). Why have they shot a worse free throw percentage in conference games? It’s been a bit odd to witness. Maybe it’s just a slump.
K-State is 2nd in field goal percentage defense (4th in conference games.) Their defense has been great and it’s been what has been keeping them competitive.
K-State is 3rd in 3 point FG percentage both overall and in conference games. They are also 2nd in total three-point field goals made. Nijel Pack has a lot to do with this, but Mark Smith has been on fire lately, too.
K-State is 1st in 3 point field goal percentage defense (3rd in conference games.) Their perimeter defense has been stellar.
K-State is 2nd in defensive rebounds per game. Mark Smith is leading the league, which is the big reason for this ranking.
K-State is 3rd in turnover margin in conference games. They haven’t been turning the ball over nearly as much as they were in the non-conference portion of the schedule.
K-State is also first in assist to turnover ratio in conference games.
Not-So-Good Team Stats
Now we’ve seen what K-State is doing well, what can they improve upon to keep winning?
K-State is 10th in scoring offense (8th in conference games.) While the Wildcats have been great from three-point land, they could use some more production in the paint.
K-State is 9th in field goal percentage (8th in conference games.) They’re still not a good shooting team overall. I’m not convinced this is going to get much better as the season progresses.
K-State is 9th in rebounding margin (10th in conference games.) They are getting outrebounded at a pretty good clip despite having the top rebounder in the league.
K-State is also 10th in blocked shots, 9th in assists, and 8th in steals.
What do all of these statistics tell us? The team is doing some things very well and other things not so well. If they can shore up some things like scoring in the paint to improve their field goal percentage, free-throw shooting, etc., there may be more big wins on the horizon for this team. No matter what happens, it is fun watching some of the best players in the league in Mark Smith, Nijel Pack, and Markquis Nowell.
*If you like what you’ve read from Joe Mathieu, find more on his personal K-State site: https://www.kstatejoe.com/*